But the superstars weren't the only attractions. Lesser dogs commanded attention in the rotunda. That's where the entrants were "benched" before they competed. The 111-year-old Westminster is one of only seven major U.S. dog shows that still mandate a benching period during which dog lovers can meet the canines up close and personal. This is when you match up bulldogs with their jowly owners and assess the similarities in coiffures of the poodles and their handlers.
It's also when you can catch up on the catty...ummm, canine gossip. Over at the bullterrier bench the hot news was that the terrier in the Bud Light ads, Spuds MacKenzie, isn't such a smooth guy. In fact, he's a she—a bitch! The eavesdropping is good, too. A boxer owner bragged, "Mine never starts fights, but he always finishes them." Overheard at the Lhasa apso bench: "The damn Chihuahuas get all the attention."
The master of ceremonies for the competition was animal expert Roger Caras, who briefly described each of the 139 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds that were present at the Westminster. To hear Caras tell it, a preponderance of them had long ago been "tremendous, ferocious killers" but had evolved into "fine, loyal, family-companion dogs." But it was clearly Tucker Hill's Manhattan that had evolved the most agreeably. "The finest class I've ever judged—quality was everywhere," said Louis Auslander, who chose Manhattan. "The German shepherd is a great showman, under control at all times. Everything I wanted, he showed me."